Ticonderoga to North Woodstock

Wednesday 24th to Saturday 27th August – Rest Day & Stages 89 to 91.

Wednesday 24th August – Rest Day.

We were staying outside of the town itself, so we were a bit limited on activities today. That was no bad thing, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up on my journal, as well as start preparing my weekly & monthly blog posts. I also needed to update our routes from now until we finish our adventure next Tuesday.

We decided to do our own thing for food & I succumbed to the Micky D’s across the road – sometimes only junk food will do & today was that time! I also decided to go for a bit of a walk to work off the calories & managed to catch a view of yesterday’s descent & got a better understanding of why we plummeted down it so quickly.

Thursday 25th August – Ticonderoga to Pittsfield (Stage 89).

We set off at 9am & after just 3 miles we had a treat ready & waiting for us – a crossing of Lake Champlain by ferry (our 4th & final ferry crossing of the adventure). The crossing from Ticonderoga to Shoreham takes 7 minutes & costs $5 for a bicycle & rider & out of peak hours you use a flag system to hail the ferry.

I took a few photos on the way across the lake to remind us of the ferry & the ticket lady kindly took a shot of Sean & myself with the pirate flag. We also moved from The Empire State of New York, into the Green Mountain State of Vermont during the crossing of the lake.

Our route profile told us it would be rolling the entire day, including a couple of serious climbs. We joined the Lake Champlain Scenic Byway as we left the ferry crossing & began climbing almost immediately as we briefly headed into a wooded area. As we reached the plateau, we rode through the small village of Shoreham, one of a number of English place names we’ve encountered since we entered the New England region.

In spite of there not being a town for miles around, we passed Lakeview Cemetery. It then took us 20 minutes to cycle past the nearest church, so it was an unusual location for a graveyard. We briefly joined the road to Bridport, before taking a right towards Cornwall – as I mentioned previously, there are a few English place names around here!

We stayed on a plateau for about 20 minutes with vast views laid out before us, but it became clear at some point soon we would be heading downhill, with the prospect of a climb up to the next plateau!

As we started climbing, we saw a sign for Lemon Fair Sculpture Garden. The sculptures were laid out in fields & stretched for as far as the eye could see. We spent about half an hour having a walk around some of the closer exhibits & enjoying the views.

While we were taking in the art, a group of horse riders galloped across the field & then stopped, as if they were awaiting instructions on what to do or where to go next. Although there were dogs with the horse riders, they didn’t appear to be hunting.

We left the horses & riders to carry on doing their thing & set off for Cornwall. We continued on quiet two lane roads with our first views of the Green Mountains – our big climb is one of the lumps in the third photo below. Passing through Middlebury, we saw our first cyclists few quite some time, they were out for the day & were attempting to navigate their way across town.

We took another quiet backroad out of town, where we saw another cyclist heading in the opposite direction, we exchanged waves as we passed each other. Just before our planned coffee stop I had to stop to take a photo of a sign to Bristol – over 5,500 miles cycled & finally I see a sign for my home town!

Otter East in East Middlebury was a great little coffee shop – I asked the assistant for advice on what one pastry I should try & quick as a flash she said her favourite was the lemon & poppy otter’s claw. I was sold & picked up a ginger cookie to go with my coffee – we had a big climb lined up after our stop & I didn’t want to be short of energy!! The pastry & the cookie were delicious.

Our big climb today is Green Mountain & it measures 10 miles in length, climbs 1,600 feet & has ramps up to 13% – it qualifies as a mountain in anyone’s language! I was acutely aware that I may experience some pain up this little beast, as Sean had declared this morning he planned to give it full beans & he’s also ditched his tent before today’s ride (which weighed about 4 or 5 pounds) now that we had motels booked until we reach Brunswick.

Since I lost 20 pounds or so, my riding has come on in leaps & bounds & I can now climb reasonably well – the thing is, Sean has always been a better climber than me, by a significant margin. I wanted to test myself, so decided I was also going to give it a full gas effort & deal with the consequences later! I made sure to take photos on the climb – this is an cycling adventure, not a race!

The two long, steep ramps were at the start & end of the climb. At the start, the road was being prepared for new tarmac, so we had to ride on a rough surface too. We both gave it all we had & finished together at the top in just under an hour, so I now know my climbing really has improved!

We stopped briefly at the summit to get our breath back & take a photo – although there wasn’t a proper summit sign, there was a Green Mountain sign of sorts. Now for my favourite part, the descent!

The first couple of miles of the descent were lightning quick & I hit 45mph at one point. A shout out to Chris Hancock, we passed through the town of your surname today – ironically it’s where I stopped for the man with big cockerel photo! Bob, fear not, a copy will be on its way to you as soon as I get back into phone coverage!!! 🙂

We have a number of mountains coming up in the last week – this is because we’re heading West to East & the glaciers that formed the valleys moved in a North to South direction. This is a repeat of what happened in Washington State, only the mountains here are at a lower altitude. I’ve come to like the mountains now I can climb them, as they provide some glorious backdrops.

As we were riding through the 3rd Rochester of the adventure (others were in Indiana & New York, now New Hampshire) we stumbled across The Rochester Cafe & Country Store, so decided to stop & see what they had to offer. Delicious ice cream was the answer – I had a double scoop of Maine Black Bear (cherry & chocolate in vanilla) & Black Raspberry!!

We ended up chatting to a lady who was a retired nurse & had worked at the Bristol Royal Infirmary during a 2 year spell of living in the UK. She’s hoping to meet up with some of the people she used to work with on a trip to South Africa – I’m keeping fingers crossed that she & all her friends are able to travel.

As we left town, we followed the White River downstream (we’re following it again tomorrow), which was great news as it meant the final 15 miles into Pittsfield were gravity assisted! It only took us about an hour to reach our hotel for the night.

We’d landed on our feet once again, as the Clear River Inn & Tavern was perfect – we had a room each, that was spacious & everything looked & behaved as if it was new – we had codes to get into the rooms, rather than keys. Breakfast would be provided in the morning & there was a great bar & restaurant on-site.

We toasted a glorious day in the saddle under blue skies & our good fortune with the hotel. There are now only 4 riding days of our adventure left, so I’m beginning to try & work out how I feel about the trip coming to an end, but in the meantime, I’m making the most of the time we have remaining.

Stage Stats – 58 miles, 4,573 feet of climbing. Cycling in the sun with an alpine climb thrown in for good measure.

Friday 26th August – Pittsfield to Fairlee (Stage 90).

We made the most of the Clear River Inn’s breakfast nook, helping ourselves to cereal, fruit & protein bars, as well as enjoying the coffee & juice on offer. A great start to what should be another big climbing day.

We were on our way by 9.30am (a slightly shorter ride today), under leaden grey skies – rain is forecast for late morning / early afternoon, so we’re expecting to get wet at some point today. We re-traced our tyre tracks the 5 miles back to Stockbridge, where we picked up the White River again & warmed up our legs on a couple of steep ramps that took us over some bluffs.

As we were descending one of the bluffs, we saw movement ahead of us, so slowed down – we approached a flock of game birds (partridge or grouse maybe?) that were teaching their chicks how to cross the road safely!!! It was quite a sight watching 20 to 25 birds running across the 2 lane road. They didn’t seem in any way phased by us riding past, they just looked on from the field.

A few locals have been saying that they are need of rain, as the rivers are all running dry – we saw this at first hand today, as we followed the White River valley. Most of the bed was dry, with just a small channel down the middle. The other observation was that the mountains were looking bigger, the further down the river valley we went!

I’m always on the lookout for something interesting, historical or just different & today we passed the birthplace of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their missionaries travel around the world spreading the word of the Mormon Church. I knew a little about them, as when I worked for a bank in a previous life many years ago, a number of their US missionaries used to come into the bank to cash their cheques.

There’s a 38 1/2 foot granite monument commemorating his life, but it was 2 1/2 miles away up a hill, so I settled for just taking a photo of the historical marker!

The sky was becoming darker & it clear that rain was on the way, so we picked up the pace a bit to try & reach Sharon before the rains arrived. We managed to make it the local gas station for coffee & processed cake just before the heavens opened, but only just!

It was bucketing down when we set off after our coffee stop, with thunder & lightning thrown in for good measure. The climb itself began with a couple of 13% ramps which quickly warmed us both up, but then it settled into a steady 5% to 7% gradient for about 4 miles.

There wasn’t a sign at the summit, so we simply rolled over the top, before hitting a 12% descent for 2 miles. In no time I was descending at about 45 mph, so concentration levels were 100% switched on. After a few miles the gradient eased & I was able to get a couple of photos – we were only doing a little of 20 mph, so had plenty of time to enjoy the steam rising off the trees, as well as pay attention to the road.

The British theme continued from yesterday, as we hit an East Anglian stretch today, as we headed through Thetford & close by Norwich.

We enjoyed a couple more short descents & were beginning to think the worst of the climbing was behind us, when Thetford delivered a cheeky little punch to the solar plexus – Thetford Hill had a name for a reason, it was a short, sharp & steep ramp that lasted for less than a mile, but hit 12% for a big chunk of it. We were relieved to reach the summit!

On the outskirts of Thetford we crossed the Ompompanoosuc River on the first Covered Bridge we’ve seen so far on our adventure. It was built in 1839 & measures 127 feet across. The road deck is wooden, although beneath the bridge there are now steel struts to give it some structural integrity.

At East Thetford we crossed the Connecticut River, taking us briefly into New Hampshire, although neither of us spotted a Welcome to New Hampshire sign. We followed the deserted River View Road along the edge of the river, spending about a mile on a good quality gravel road.

As we continued along the banks of the Connecticut towards Orford, we crossed our second covered bridge of the day & I stopped to get an action shot – yes, it was still raining & we were properly soaked through! As we reached Orford, we took a left turn, crossing the river back into Vermont & then making our way into Fairlee, where we’re staying at the Silver Maple Lodge this evening.

There was a laundry right next to the hotel, so we took the chance to do our last batch of washing before we reach the end of our cycling adventure. There was also a restaurant nearby too – for some reason I was starving this afternoon, so I went to dinner on my own at 5pm, about 2 hours earlier than normal.

I still toasted another adventurous day in the saddle – it’s a Friday & Beer Club traditions need to be maintained!!! Tonight’s offering was a Little Devil IPA. Here’s to a drier day tomorrow.

Stage Stats – 54 miles, 3,261 feet of climbing. The rains return!

Saturday 27th August – Fairlee to North Woodstock (Stage 91).

We had a late start today, as we only had a 40 mile ride to North Woodstock planned. We met for a continental breakfast at 9am, having already chatted about heading into town if we needed a more substantial meal. We met Linda & Brian, who were in town to see family – they come from just outside Boston. They were both really interested in our adventure, how we came up with the idea & our stand-out moments.

Linda has family from Salisbury & they had both visited the UK pre-covid & had been to Bristol & Bath during their trip. Linda said if we find ourselves in Boston we should look them up & they’ll put us up – another example of the incredible generosity of the people we’ve met on our adventure.

As we were saying goodbye to Scott (who owns the motel) he told us that he’d ridden Coast to Coast 50 years ag0, as a 22 year old. He then got out a large scale map with the route he’d taken – it was a real privilege to hear about his adventure! We’ve used modern technology all the way round, whereas Scott picked up a paper map of each State as he crossed the State Line. I was in awe of what he did.

It was about 11am by the time we left Scott & the Silver Maple Lodge, & after stopping for a breakfast of eggs, sausage & toast we were on our way under sunny, blue skies. Our first task was to get a photo in front of the Welcome to New Hampshire sign which instructed us to Live Free or Die just before we crossed the Connecticut River!

We rode close to the Connecticut River as we made our way along the side of the valley. Initially it was like being back in Wisconsin again, as we passed maize fields. Although the route didn’t show any climbing in the early stages, the reality was somewhat different, as we regularly found ourselves heading up & down undulations in the road.

Just before our final view of the river, I spotted a sign that reminded me of my friends Train Driver Jake & Helen Warren – it’s been fun looking out for signs that remind me of home

We were riding on Dartmouth College Highway – Dartmouth was chartered in 1769 & is one of only 9 colonial colleges which remain from before the American Revolution. It’s also the inspiration for the film National Lampoon’s Animal House, as one of the writers Chris Miller) was a member of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house during his time there.

We saw a couple of touring cyclists as we reached Haverhill (which made me thing of The Proclaimers – I was havering myself at this point!). There was also what looked to be a Trump Evacuation Route towards Canada (zoom in on the image above the writing……).

We took a right towards The White Mountains & the climbing started in earnest – there was a steep ramp at the start of the climb, then it settled into a steady 4% to 5% gradient for the remaining 8 miles, as we climbed up to 1,300 feet above sea level. I’d popped off the front, so managed to get an action shot of Sean, just as he summitted the first of our 2 proper climbs of the day.

After a brief descent, we crossed the Ammonoosuc River & started the final climb of the day. It was a 5 mile climb, but it would only gain 800 feet of altitude.

We entered the White Mountains National Forest on the lower slopes, so had some protection from the sun as we headed past Wildwood Campground & State Park. The final drag took us up to Beaver Pond, where we stopped briefly to enjoy the view across the lake to the even taller peaks.

The descent was awesome. The long, sweeping bends didn’t require any braking, as the road was wide open, always offering big views all around. In next to no time we were on the lower slopes, freewheeling towards the small town of North Woodstock.

As we rolled into town we saw the Woodstock Pie & Coffee Company, which claimed the title of “Best Pie in New Hampshire”, so we had to try it out! I decided to go all in, so added some soft ice cream, to complete the taste test – it was a great piece of mixed berry pie & the ice cream was delicious too!

This is our last two night stop before we finish our big adventure, so we headed our for dinner, then stayed out a bit longer for a few beers too.

Stage Stats – 39 miles, 2,805 feet of climbing. Crossing into New Hampshire & finding some mighty fine pie!

Pulaski to Ticonderoga

Sunday 21st to Tuesday 23rd August – Stages 86 to 88.

Sunday 21st August – Pulaski to Boonville (Stage 86).

We made plans to set off this morning at 9am, however, the weather gods had a different idea! Thunder, lightning & a deluge of rain made the decision to delay our start for an hour, rather an easy one to make.

We eventually got underway at about 10am, at which point it had, at least temporarily, stopped raining. Leaving town, we passed the local airfield, where I stopped briefly to get a snap of the Canada Geese preparing for their own take-off in the field next door.

There is a growing Amish community around Pulaski & the road signs remind motorists of the possibility that horse & carriages may be on the road. The only horse & carriage we’ve seen on our travels was 3 weeks ago, when we on the way to Rochester, Indiana.

The reality of today was that only mad fish & Englishmen would be out in the mid-day storm!! The dry spell had lasted less than 20 minutes when the skies opened again – while the final photo below shows a still image of the rain, I’ve also included a video clip. You’ll need to forgive the poor quality of the audio, as water got in the microphone.

The Salmon River & Reservoir were both hidden behind the trees, so it took about an hour before we got our one & only look at the lake. Most Atlantic Salmon of Lake Ontario, although the same species as those salmon found on the Atlantic coast, spend their entire life in Lake Ontario & the Salmon River.

In 1860 salmon were so abundant that farmers used pitchforks to toss the fish onto the bank as they swam up-river in the Seneca River. Documents also claim that over 2,000 salmon were speared in a single night at Pulaski.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) are now responsible for managing the limited salmon stock in Lake Ontario & the surrounding rivers, including the Salmon River. Over time, NYSDEC aim to increase salmon numbers, but it’s very much a long term project.

Although it had been raining for most of the morning (& it continued to for another hour or two), it was warm enough that I was riding in overshoes, shorts & a short sleeved wet weather cycling top (A Castelli Perfetto for the cycling geeks among you – I have no hesitation recommended it for wet weather riding. For clarity I bought it, so no product placement here!).

Some of my friends will remember that I made a conscious decision to go out training last winter when it was raining – at the time I said I wanted to be mentally prepared to deal with days of rain if / when it happened on my adventure. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop the rain when it happened, but I could choose my attitude.

As we left Salmon Lake behind, we started climbing & headed up to Osceola ski resort on Tug Hill. It’s only about 1,700 feet above sea level, but has 15 miles of cross-country ski trails & is popular in winter. We didn’t see a soul when we cycled past it!!

The final photo below gives an idea of how dark it was & how heavy the rain was as we continued on our way.

We stopped at a bar in Osceola for a quick coffee (no cake today), just to get out the rain for 15 minutes. The very kind landlady offered us a room for the night if we needed one – this has been typical of the many people we’ve met, always offering to help if they can. We had a hotel booked & paid for another 90 minutes away, so we declined, but said how much we appreciated her offer.

Back out into the rain we went! Creeks that had been barely flowing only a couple of days ago were already showing signs of how much rain had fallen in the last 12 hours.

I’d pulled over for a natural break when the heavens opened again – I was in just the right place to get Sean riding past & the rain bouncing off the road, with a State Forest sign in shot (we’d been passing them all morning).

Finally the rain relented & then eventually stopped! This was the first time we’d been rained on in a while (a thunder storm in Winona a month ago is the last time that springs to mind), so in spite of getting very wet today, we appreciate how lucky we’ve been recently.

We’re staying in a really comfortable hotel tonight. The Lodge At Headwaters is much more luxurious than our usual accommodation. I took a photo before I spread my wet kit all across the room, so it would dry for the morning!

The Boonville Hotel is an old opera house & looked like it might be just the place for a couple of restorative IPA’s & a slap up meal – they certainly delivered!!! The spaghetti & meatballs & HUGE chocolate brownie sundae (on a Sunday) were delicious. Tomorrow’s another day, but the weather forecast is saying we’re in for more of the same, so I’m off to choose my attitude for another day in the rain…..

Stage Stats – 49 miles, 3,018 feet of climbing. A day in the rain & a return to the mountains as the Adirondacks approach.

Monday 22nd August – Boonville to Long Lake (Stage 87).

Sadly the rain forecast was correct & we set off in light rain for the 2nd day on the trot – this is a first on our adventure. As a result I’ll be in the same jacket as yesterday, although underneath I have a clean cycling jersey on…..honest, I do!!

We left Boonville on a small, quiet & hilly road that took us up to the Black River feeder canal & a slippery (when wet) steel grated bridge – I was livin’ on a prayer when I crossed it!

We continued past a gaggle of 5 wild turkeys who were walking across someone’s back garden & then re-crossed the canal, before crossing the Black River itself. By now the light shower had moved on & been replaced by a downpour. Once again it was time to choose an attitude & I like to think I did a good job of selecting the right one, check the video & see what you think!

We occasionally found refuge from the deluge under the overhanging trees, but as you can see, we were drenched by this point – we were probably 6 or 7 miles into the ride, but it was warm again, so things could have been much more challenging for us. Mile Creek ran through the back garden of one property & although the weather wasn’t great, it looked like a lovely spot to sit on a warm, summer’s day.

The rain stopped at about 10.30, which lifted our spirits & encouraged us to take some action photos & also stop & take in some of the historic buildings – the Old Red Schoolhouse dates from 1870.

We had been riding along Moose River Road all morning, so we knew there was a river hiding behind the trees somewhere, we just didn’t know where! Then it revealed itself for the first time, away to our left. In between sightings of the river we found ourselves climbing, then descending the bluffs every time the river twisted & turned.

At McKeever we joined a larger County road, crossed the Moose River & headed towards Old Forge. We passed through Thendara on the way, which had a historic railroad museum, which included a restored station & a Scenic railroad. In front of the train are Railbikes (which run on the railroad track) – each railbike takes up to 4 people & you can hire them (from $85 for 2 hours) & explore the surrounding scenery on the railroad.

At Thendara we picked up the Thendara, Old Forge, Big Moose, Inlet, Eagle Bay (TOBIE) Trail – which provides a cyclist friendly route around the local lakes.

Old Forge was a lovely working town, with specialist shops offering cheese, statues carved from tree trunks by chainsaws & most interesting to us….Ozzie’s Cafe! Sean made this great little find yesterday when researching the fine detail of today’s ride. I chose a wild berry cheesecake & snickers cookie to go with my cappuccino & was very pleased with them all!

We left Old Forge on South Shore Road which took us past First Lake & a lakeside inlet. Although we were riding round a single lake, it had been separated into sections – First Lake & Fourth Lake were, in fact, the same lake!!!

We followed South Lakeshore Road as far as Inlet, at which point we took a right turn onto our last road of the day, although we still had 35 miles of riding left! The very good news was we’d left the rain behind for the day.

We passed Fifth & Sixth Lakes, then at Seventh Lake I saw a sign for Payne’s Seaplanes & Air Services – there were about half a dozen planes on the water, but none were due to take off any time soon, so I settled for taking a few photos of the planes then we set off on our way again.

We found a quiet spot to take a selfie action shot & continued our numeracy lessons on the lakes – they stopped at Eighth!

Although the numbers had run out, the lakes continued to come thick & fast – Raquette Lake was beautiful, with remote islands in the middle. Slightly further on, the shallows offered vistas of the Adirondack Mountains in the distance – more of them over the coming days.

Lake Utuwana & Eagle Lake were connected by a narrow neck & I stopped briefly at both to get a photo to remind me of them in future – 2 more lovely lakes in stunning scenery. In order to reach our motel for the night we had one last, steep climb up to Blue Mountain (no sign, so no photo). Although it was only about a mile in length, it topped out at 11%, which at the end of a long, wet day was testing enough!

For every Ying, there’s a Yang & we had a joyous descent down the other side.

As we rode into Long Lake, we could see The Shamrock Motel in the near distance. We checked-in, got ourselves settled, then put the laundry on while we cycled the mile into town to get some food from the gas station – a sub sandwich & 2 slices of pizza were this evening’s gourmet offering for dinner!

I then went & chilled out on the Shamrock’s private beach for a bit, taking in the views & enjoying the solitude. The perfect end to an epic day in the saddle.

Stage Stats – 74 miles, 4,823 feet of climbing. Another wet morning, then a lesson in lake counting in the afternoon.

Tuesday 23rd August – Long Lake to Ticonderoga (Stage 88).

We left Long Lake under brooding, grey skies & a gap in the early morning rain. However, within 10 minutes the skies had opened again, just as we summitted a small climb with a view over Shaw Pond. A lone heron was fishing for its breakfast, but it looked a very sorry figure with the rain falling like stair-rods.

This is the third day running that there’s been heavy rain, so we at least know what we’re in for! The worst of it rarely lasts more than 15 or 20 minutes (by which point everything we’re wearing is dripping wet), then it eases off for a while (sometimes stopping completely, like today).

We continued on drying roads that rolled up & down between small ponds & rivers. All seemed to be going swimmingly as we passed a sign that identified the primitive area of Essex Chain Lakes.

Just after the 15 mile point at Newcomb, our adventure was thrown into doubt when the chain on my bike broke as I stood up to climb a short incline. Before I came away I had a conversation with my friend Jimbo & he heavily recommended that I take a replacement quick link for an emergency such as this & learn how to replace one. I, of course, didn’t follow his advice & now found myself in a spot of bother!

While I was pondering my options, Tom stopped & asked Sean what the problem was. When I spoke to him & explained, he said there was an Outfitters up the road who rented out mountain bikes, so they may be able to help me. He gave me a lift the mile to Cloudsplitter Outfitters & introduced me to Dave & Ruth, the owners. I explained my predicament & Dave offered straight away to pick up my bike in his truck, bring it back to his workshop & then see what our options were.

10 minutes later we’d got my bike back to the shop – we confirmed that Dave’s Mountain Bike chains weren’t compatible, so we would need a replacement chain. To cut a long story short, I googled the serial number of the chain I needed & Dave phoned a bike shop in Glen’s Falls (60 miles away). They had the chain – now we just needed to get it back to us…..

Dave’s daughter Sienna was running her regular errands for the business, picking up supplies etc in, that’s right, Glen’s Falls. She agreed to pick up the chain & bring it back to Newcomb once she’d finished her appointments. I paid for the chain over the phone & now we just had to wait for Sienna to get back to Newcomb some time after 2.15pm.

Ruth let us use the Pilot’s House, their rental property above the shop & an outdoor space under an awning on the banks of the Hudson River. Sean set about catching up on his sleep with a few 20 minute naps, while I took some photos, had a stroll, did some work on my Blog & reminded myself how to fit a chain by watching some You Tube videos!

Having made the best of our situation & enjoyed our surroundings, I was eager to test my new found knowledge when Sienna arrived with my chain. With Dave’s guidance, we had the chain fitted in about 5 minutes & just like that we could restart our adventure on the road!

Dave, Ruth & Sienna – thank you so much for your help, generosity & kindness. We were in a real difficult position when we met you, but in the space of 4 hours we were able to continue our adventure. This wouldn’t have been possible without you, so a heartfelt thank you.

Dave, Ruth & Sienna – my latest saviours!

We were back on the road by 3pm, with about 45 miles still to ride. The weather was still unsettled, but we set off in the dry & kept our fingers crossed that it might stay that way. We started climbing the side of the Hudson River valley along Blue Ridge Road & rode through verdant, green forest up to the summit. Our enforced delay resulted in us arriving just in time to see a rainbow further up the road.

It was another example of everything appearing to happen for a reason – if my chain hadn’t have broken when & where it did, we’d not have met Dave, Ruth & Sienna, nor would we have seen the rainbow.

We had a tailwind along this stretch of road as we bounced along the ridge, so although there was heavy rain ahead, it was being blown away from us. We had a fun descent into North Hudson

The low cloud on the surrounding mountains made for some moody views, especially when the sun occasionally poked its head out. We continued through Severance & started climbing again after passing the town of Paradox & its lake.

We had the road to ourselves for large parts of today, which made the riding even more enjoyable, especially on the climbs, where we pootle along at anything between 5 & 10 mph. The deserted roads also enable us to ride abreast of each other, have a chat & take a few photos together – the 2nd photo was on a gentle descent, so these were ‘free’ miles!

We followed Eagle Lake for a couple of miles before arriving at our final climb of the day – a short, but steep ascent that took about 15 minutes to complete, however, there was a reward waiting at the top.

We had a 3 mile descent into Ticonderoga, where we’re staying for the next couple of nights! There were huge views all the way across to Lake Champlain in the distance.

In spite of the delay to replace my broken chain, we were checked in to the motel not long after 6pm – a later finish than usual, but with a significantly better outcome than I feared 8 hours previously.

We headed out to the restaurant where we had a great pasta dinner, where we selected the specific ingredients to go into our sauces & it was then cooked in an open galley – the chef had 4 pans going at any one time.

It was also a chance for us to toast Dave, Ruth & Sienna for their enormous help & kindness today. Your random acts of kindness today won’t be forgotten any time soon!

Stage Stats – 63 miles, 3,599 feet of climbing. A near disaster averted by Dave, Ruth & Sienna.

Tour of the USA – Week Sixteen

Well, How Did We Get Here? Miles, Feet Climbed, Maps & Profiles.

I’ve had some positive comments about the map & elevation profile that covers the complete route, so I’m going to include it again this week. As we rolled into Niagara Falls we tipped over 5,000 miles cycled so far – I can still remember getting on the ferry in Seattle at the start of the adventure like it was yesterday!

We’ve covered 5,219 miles & climbed 176,707 feet to reach Pulaski.

Previous updates described how we travelled from Seattle in Washington to North East, Pennsylvania in the first 15 weeks of our adventure. Now find out where we went & what we did in Week 16! Hopefully picking a single photo to represent each day will refresh my mind when it comes to looking back on my adventure!

Saturday was a rest day in North East, so I took the opportunity to plan out the next week of potential routes & we got accommodation booked. We crossed into The Empire State of New York on Sunday & skirted the shoreline of Lake Erie. Monday included a bit of sightseeing as we crossed Buffalo on the way to Niagara Falls. We visited Thundering Water on Tuesday, better know as Niagara Falls for a trip on the Maid of the Mist. On Wednesday we joined the Erie Canal Trail at Lockport & stayed on the crushed limestone trail for the final 40 miles of our ride. We picked up the Erie Canal Trail again on Thursday to navigate around Rochester, then joined a quiet backroad to Wolcott. Finally, on Friday we saw Lake Ontario (our third & final Great Lake) on the way to Pulaski.

Week Sixteen – North East (PA) to Pulaski (NY)

DateStart LocationEnd LocationMilesFeet Climbed
13/08/22North East – REST DAYNorth East – REST DAY00
14/08/22North EastAngola-on-the-Lake581,421
15/08/22Angola-on-the-LakeNiagara Falls581,040
17/08/22Niagara FallsBrockport69469

Niagara Falls to Pulaski

Wednesday 17th to Friday 19th August – Stages 83 to 85.

Wednesday 17th August – Niagara Falls to Brockport (Stage 83).

After yesterday’s amazing morning at Niagara Falls, we were back on the road, cycling again by 9am this morning. We took the Military Road north, stopping briefly at Reservoir State Park. Although we were more than 5 miles from Niagara Falls, the mist was still very much visible in the background. The State Park is a favourite with locals because of its many uses – tennis, roller hockey & basketball courts, softball diamonds combine with kite flying, model aircraft clubs, football & golf. The reservoir also has excellent fishing if that’s your thing.

We took a right turn as we reached Upper Mountain Road & headed East towards the Tuscarora Indian Nation on gently rolling terrain. The route took us past a historical marker which identified the home of Martha & Thomas Root. They were abolitionists who helped many slaves escape to freedom, via the Underground Railroad.

The term “Underground Railroad” was first used in 1831 & was used to describe an escape network of secret routes & safe houses used by enslaved African Americans. The escape routes were likened to railroads & people used the same terminology – for example a conductor was someone who served as a guide to an escapee, while a station was a hiding place (most likely in a private house, church or school).

Many escapees journeyed all the way to Canada, as the USA’s own Fugitive Slave Laws meant fugitives needed to leave the USA to be safe. Canada had no slavery & didn’t allow slave catchers onto their land.

Lockport to Niagara remains one of the most difficult stretches of road I’ve ever ridden. We cycled into a headwind for about 20 miles in 2007 & I remember being in the easiest gear I had available & we struggled to maintain 8 miles per hour – it makes me shudder just thinking about it!! It remains my gauge for how strong a headwind really is & to this day I’ve not ridden in more challenging conditions. Funnily enough, Sean had similar memories!!

We arrived at Lockport after 24 miles & found Carson’s Deli & Bakery where we topped up our calories & water levels. I had mapped a route which would follow the small roads if necessary, but we agreed we would try the Erie Canal Trail first, as a few people had said it was better than the road option.

The Erie Canal is no longer used to transport freight, but it remains open for recreational boating, as well as cruises up & down the canal. We joined the Empire State Trail (which runs alongside the canal) in Lockport & stayed on it all the way to tonight’s stop at Brockport!

The trail is mostly crushed limestone with occasional stretches of gravel & tarmac. When we attempted to ride this surface back in 2007 (in the opposite direction), we decided it was too difficult for us. Fast forward to 2022 & we cycled on it for about 40 miles today, with more planned tomorrow!!

While we were on the trail we saw the canal being used by a large barge which was taking people on a cruise, a small boat with just a couple of people on board, a paddleboarder & a gaggle of geese who were practicing their synchronised swimming.

As we reached the outskirts of each town, they had defences in place (should they be needed), to ensure the town was protected from flooding. There were also different bridge designs & colours – the drawbridges in town were just above the river, but could be moved to enable boats to pass & each one had the town’s name on a sign. Pedestrian bridges were the same colour as the drawbridges, but you had to climb the steps to get over them. Roads outside of town were higher again & painted either grey or green, depending on the classification of the road.

We reached the northernmost point of the Erie Canal, which was good news, as the light wind was blowing from the North. We had the trail to ourselves by now & stopped to admire the view & take a couple of photos. The crops also switched from fields of maize & soya being harvested by big combine harvesters to orchards of apples

We stopped at The Coffee Joint in Albion, where the cake of choice today was an apple turnover & the drink was a salted caramel latte – the perfect pick-me-up for the final 20 miles into Brockport!

There were signs along the length of the trail, giving information on the canal & I’ve included one, so you can see the attention to detail that goes into them.

We left the trail on the edge of Brockport & made our way to our motel for the evening & once we’d checked in, it was time to do the laundry (again!). Laundry is a task to be endured, so it always feels like we’ve worked extra hard for our celebratory beer & today was no exception! We cycled down to The Custom House, where we enjoyed a couple of The Kind IPA’s each & had a delicious vegetable pasta.

Stage Stats – 69 miles, 469 feet of climbing (pan flat!). A glorious day exploring the Erie Canal Trail!

Thursday 18th August – Brockport to Wolcott (Stage 84).

We were on the road by 9am & back on the Erie Canal Trail by 9.10! You may be able to make out the Brockport sign below the 3 flags (New York State flag, United States flag & New York State Canal Corporation flag) that are on all the town bridges.

We headed East all morning (which made taking photos a challenge, looking into the sun) & remained on crushed limestone as we made our way towards Spencerport initially. When we cycled from Albany to Niagara Falls in 2007, we cycled on the road in the 3rd photo, but were heading in the opposite direction – the world sometimes feels very small!

Construction of the 363 mile long Erie Canal commenced in 1817 & was completed in 1825. It was 40 feet wide by 4 feet deep & each of its 83 locks were 90 feet in length. The canal cost $7,143,789 at the time & it took 10 years to make a return on that investment. The journey from Albany to Buffalo by stagecoach took 2 weeks, whereas the same journey took 5 days on the Erie Canal. It was also the first navigable water way to connect the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Today, the canal is 120 to 200 feet wide by 12 to 23 feet deep & it has 57 locks, each of which are 310 feet long. As we made our way past Adams Basin & Spencerport the variations in width were obvious to the naked eye. The bridges were always located at narrow crossing points.

We saw a couple of boats out this morning & the geese were again perfecting their synchronised swimming – they left their offspring in the shallows while the adults were on manoeuvres!

As we reached North Gates the woodland closed in on the cycle path & we were plunged into shadow. This was where we had to temporarily leave the trail for a couple of miles. This surprised both of us, but I managed to navigate us back to the canal & trail a few miles further on – this enabled us to avoid Rochester (a city with a population of 200,000 plus) & its busy roads .

The trail was now tarmac, which was smoother & as a consequence, faster. At times we headed into parkland, but the canal was never far away & at one point we saw a large barge with its dredging bucket on the front. We headed off in different directions, but bumped into each other again further along the canal (see the 4th photo) – we crossed the canal on the small, white arched bridge behind the boat, where it met the Genesee River.

We continued through quiet parkland & then popped back out onto the bank of the Erie Canal, with the main freeway on the opposite bank. The trail was almost deserted at this point, as we made our way towards Brighton & Lock 33, which is still in use.

There was a heron fishing for a late breakfast / early lunch on the edge of the canal – this was the last of the wildlife we saw on the canal, but we had more surprises waiting for us around the corner & under the bridge. A passenger carrying paddle steamer passed us, travelling in the opposite direction & a few miles after that treat it was time for cappuccino & a coconut scone!

Soon after coffee we joined the road network again & there wasn’t much new scenery to see in the final 40 miles of the ride. We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon riding on quiet roads, it’s just that they were all the same as each other! We had a few minutes of respite when we passed between orchards of apples.

We had our first look at Lake Ontario about 5 miles before the end of the ride & it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Sodus Bay was covered in a combination of water plants & green algae! The final run into Wolcott included a few short, sharp climbs & they were always visible from some way away.